The year is 80 A.D. An excited crowd of nearly 50,000 people pack into a new amphitheater in Rome, the capital of the vast Roman Empire. Suddenly, two men wearing armor and holding shields and swords rise from beneath the arena floor. The main event has begun at what will become one of the world’s most famous buildings—the Colosseum.
At the time, the Romans controlled much of what is now Europe, West Asia, and North Africa. Cities throughout the Roman Empire had amphitheaters, but the Colosseum stood out from the rest.
“It is the largest, most important Roman amphitheater ever built,” says Steven Tuck, a historian who’s an expert on ancient Rome.
The Colosseum was like today’s sports stadiums, and gladiator matches were the biggest attraction. Beneath the arena was a series of hidden passageways called hypogea, where gladiators prepared for battle. In June of this year, these underground tunnels were opened to the public for the first time.
Take a look inside the most famous sports arena in history.